PENSA Project: Analysing whether it is possible to slow down cognitive decline


Scientific Highlights

Researchers at the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM) and the Barcelonaβeta Brain Research Center (BBRC), have started recruiting participants for the PENSA Study (Prevention of cognitive decline in ApoE4 carriers with Subjective Cognitive Decline after EGCG and a multimodal intervention). This is a clinical trial in prevention that will monitor, over the course of one year, 200 people who present with memory complaints, a stage that may precede Alzheimer’s disease.

The aim of the study is to check the evolution of participants and the impact on them of a programme of multimodal intervention in lifestyles and the taking of a dietary supplement, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a natural compound from green tea. In previous studies, this component has shown positive effects on the cognitive function of people with Down Syndrome, in combination with a cognitive stimulation programme.

The participants will be divided into four groups. They will receive EGCG or placebo and, in addition, two of the groups will receive lifestyle recommendations while the other two groups will participate in an intensive programme of lifestyle changes that includes diet, physical activity and cognitive stimulation.

Personalised monitoring

The researchers will carry out personalised monitoring and control of the participants. In the first phase, they will carry out monitoring of participants’ lifestyles to ascertain their starting point. Their physical activity will be controlled via an activity bracelet and so will their dietary habits. Then, they will be given targets, in terms of diet and physical activity, as well as a cognitive stimulation programme.

An app has been designed for smartphones that will enable the monitoring of diet, physical activity, social interaction, and mood continually during the entire intervention. The app enables individualised monitoring of compliance with the intervention and adapts the demandingness of the challenges posed in a personalised way while favouring and reinforcing the connection with participants thanks to the sending of SMS messages. The intervention includes assistance once per week at the gym, nutritional monitoring, activities for strengthening cognitive stimulation and psychoeducational support.

The aim of the project is to check whether these interventions serve to improve the cognitive function of these individuals before the appearance of the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s. The researchers are advocating prevention studies, because they know that one out of every three cases is attributable to modifiable risk factors.

The study was presented at a symposium of the worldwide initiative World Wide FINGERS, which works to promote projects for primary prevention of cognitive deterioration and dementia. PENSA forms part of this international consortium and is funded with 1 million dollars by the Alzheimer’s Association of the United States.

In the design of the activities proposal for the different interventions prepared for improving participant lifestyle habits, there was involvement, for the first time, of a focus group of 9 people, three of whom came from the Hospital del Mar Patients Forum. Incorporating the opinion and encouraging the participation of patients in the first phase of the project, is an innovative initiative that enables improvement of the different activities programmed to achieve the desired goal.


The project will involve 200 participants with subjective memory complaint, a phase preceding cognitive deterioration


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